1983. Australia. Fuck yeah. According to Wikipedia, some real crazy shit went down ’round this time: Jonathan Thurston was born, Parramatta romped the Eagles in the finals, and Bob Hawke went on national television and told everyone to get drunk after we won a boat race. Also, some of the all-time singles this country has ever produced were birthed during this period. “Rain”, “Reckless”, “I Hear Motion”, and this absolute national treasure. The kind of songs that you’ll scoff at from your hip share house, until it’s 3am, the pub’s run dry, old mate’s kicking you out and you’ve got your arm around someone you met thirty seconds ago screaming, “THROW DOWWWN YOOUUUURRR GUUUU-UUUNS”. 1983. Australia. Fuck yeah.
It’s this precise time period that AUSTRALIA (the band) are attempting to encapsulate, that golden era of pub rock when this country really struck a musical identity. It’s a brave move – right now, most bands in this country are either making plaintive guitar pop, or garagey punk. No one has thought to hark back to a phase that is often ridiculed, unless it’s during the aforementioned gloriously drunken hour of 3am. But AUSTRALIA succeed because they don’t just emulate the music that they likely grew up with, but actually understand its simple pleasure: to get people to dance, instead of mosh, to guitars.
Sure, their debut still carries the trademarks of their forbearers: Aussie Crawl, Midnight Oil, The Models, and Goanna all pop up as obvious soundchecks in AUSTRALIA’s music. Shit, the record even evolves in the same way you would expect an 80’s No.1 Album would: Hit, Hit, Mega Hit, Introspective Ballad, Fodder, Fodder, Absolute Belter, And A Big Sweeping Gesture to Close.
But when you hear a song like “Wake In Fright”, or “Breathe In”, there’s that something there where you know it ain’t mere replication. It’s the sharp stabs of guitar, the warm, encompassing buzz of synths, the baritone bellow that stirs you equally in the heartcage as it does the feet. It’s the anthems paired right next to the songs you’d love to listen to roaring down the highway, alone after a breakup. It’s the way that if you close your eyes, AUSTRALIA catapult you decades before you were born, to the seat leaning against the Lansdowne bar, stuffing spilling from the soiled seat cushion, jukebox blaring the soon-to-be classic “Who R U?”. The place stinks of piss, someone’s chucking up in the alley outside, and the pub is heaving with dancing bodies. Fuck, it feels good.
Portraits of People, Places and Movies has its weaker moments, but as a whole package, its a record that delivers something that shouldn’t be feasible in 2016. Why the fuck would the kids want to listen to the music their parents forced on them? Because AUSTRALIA’s making that music, goddmit, and it sounds good. Who knows? Maybe thirty years from now, someone’s gonna come stumbling out of the bowlo, air guitar in hand, barking, “LOVE! IS BETTER! COME TAKE ME UNDER THIS WATER!”.
Portraits of People, Places and Movies is out now, grab it here. They’ll be playing the ‘Gong on April 1st and Brighton Up Bar in Sydney on the 2nd, both shows with YEEVS (!) and Phantastic Ferniture (!).